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Has American stopped releasing MileSAAver Business Class awards to Europe?

by on Thu December 18, 2014 • 17 Comments

American AAdvantage gets a lot of love from miles and points enthusiasts. Maybe too much love.

They really like its generous Executive Platinum program for very frequent fliers that offers lucrative upgrades on cheap fares. And they like that international first and business class awards on partner airlines to Asia like Cathay Pacific are reasonably priced, and accessible if you know where to look.

But most of us don’t want to go to all the way to Asia on vacation.

Europe is the most popular long haul international destination for U.S. travelers, and most of the questions we get from readers here revolve around getting to Europe in Business Class with miles and points.

And nowhere is it harder to use points with American AAdvantage than getting to Europe in Business Class.

We just checked all of American’s flights to Europe next summer to see how stingy they have become with releasing coveted Business Class awards at the lowest advertised 100,000 mile price.

We could find no MileSAAver award seats for a pair of travelers at all next summer on American’s own flights.


Not from New York, Chicago, Dallas, or Miami. Not on any of American’s flights to Europe. Even traveling solo it’s almost impossible to find a seat unless you want to pay 220,000 miles or more roundtrip.

And the fall of 2015 is grim too, so it’s not just a case of lots of smart travelers grabbing seats early. American simply isn’t releasing seats in any meaningful or reliable quantity. Though if you want to fly to Milan on New Years’ Eve have at it.

AAdvantage miles are now without question the worst miles among U.S. carriers for getting to Europe in Business or First Class at a reasonable price.

Why is this happening?

While AAdvantage haven’t gone revenue based for earning miles in 2015 like Delta and United, it looks like it’s quietly devalued one of the most sought after parts of a frequent flier program – reasonable access to Business Class seats to Europe.

The writing was on the wall last year when American went to a 5 tier pricing structure, adding middle tiers between the previous MileSAAver and AAnytime awards. This is something US Airways had for years, and it let them get away with offering almost no Saver level seats on its most lucrative flights.

It also has the fewest routes to Europe of any U.S. carrier – Delta and United have them trounced on that front, so there are simply fewer seats to sell.

And American’s biggest partner British Airways releases plenty of ‘Saver’ level award seats, though they come with fuel surcharges of $1,000+. Yet there are enough members willing to pay the 100,000 mile ‘Saver’ price plus the $1,000 surcharge that American hasn’t had major defections.

What can you do?

There are a few options on Air Berlin and Iberia that get you to Europe without the nasty British Airways fuel surcharges. We have most of the options for routes that have no nasty fuel surcharges listed here.

But really if Europe in Business Class is your goal, it’s time to dump your loyalty to American.

United is a good alternative. While it’s pretty stingy about releasing award seats in Business Class on its own flights, it has a feature American lacks: the ability to waitlist if an award isn’t available. With United as long as a Saver Economy Class seat is available, you can waitlist for the Business Class seat at the cheap Saver price.

And that waitlist carries all the way to the airport on the day of departure, with the very highest priority. So you have a much better shot of ultimately scoring an award at a reasonable price. You can read our primer on how to leverage this benefit here.

It’s also running an unadvertised sale on partner award flights. One of the disadvantages of United is a high 140,000 mile roundtrip price for flights to Europe on partner airlines like Lufthansa, versus 115,000 miles on United’s own flights. But for the last several days they’ve eliminated that higher price via an unadvertised sale. So there are lots of Saver priced Business Class seats to Europe next summer at reasonable prices with United miles.

Delta is getting better. Many mile and point enthusiasts view Delta SkyMiles as having as much integrity as the 2014 Russian Ruble. But the reality is, sometimes it’s good to avoid the herd.

And next summer you’ll find a lot more award space to Europe in Business Class with Delta than you can with American (though with almost zero on American it’s hard not to beat).

Delta will allow one-way awards in 2015, and its new award calendar does a better job of showing partner options like Virgin Atlantic and Alitalia that can get you to Europe in the big seat for 125,000 miles. Below you’ll see amazing space from New York to London for 2 travelers next summer.

Grab a limited time 50k bonus on the Delta SkyMiles card now to start building your balance.


Are AAdvantage miles worthless?

There are many places they still have good value.

Partner flights to Asia are a great deal in First and Business Class, starting at just 50,000 miles one way. You can’t see these flights on American’s website, but if you use British Airways’ site to search for awards you’ll see the Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines options.

Business / First Class within the U.S. While not as exciting a value as international Business Class, there are still very good deals, like seats on American’s Flagship transcontinental service from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Flights to Australia. Qantas has lots of options in Economy Class at least to Australia for just 75,000 miles roundtrip, which is a great deal for tickets that are often $2,000 in cash.

Europe in Economy Class. There is still decent MileSAAver award availability in Economy Class to Europe for 40-60,000 miles, which can save you $1,500 or more.

But all in all we just don’t trust the direction AAdvantage has headed.

Our hope is they find they are being too conservative with award space and end up having to release more seats as we get closer to the summer. But even looking at close in dates right now, space is very limited and things don’t look good.

We cannot recommend AAdvantage miles for Business and First Class to Europe.

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17 thoughts on Has American stopped releasing MileSAAver Business Class awards to Europe?

  1. Lance Vi

    I echo others angry at the lack of MileSAAver availability.

    Availability for NYC-LAX (either way) in business/first is terrible. Before, you could find usually find 5+ days in each of the non-summer months with nonstop availability if booking months out. Even for next February, there is not a single non-redeye business/first seat available the entire month. And this is after their significant devaluation (32.5k business / 50k first each way).

    For those that don’t travel internationally (for family, health, etc), the best you can hope for is domestic economy MileSAAver awards.

  2. PissedatAA

    Between my wife and I we have banked over 700k miles in flying and card usage. For the ENTIRE year out (as long as you can look) we can not find a single day with two seats of MileSaver availability in business class. United by comparison has availability for THREE passengers in their business saver equivalent (on partner airlines) 20 out of 30 days in may ALONE.

    At what point does it go from being a devaluation to remain competitive to defrauding your customer base with an EPIC bait and switch? I feel like this is class-action lawsuit material. They are advertising for a award product that they do not offer.

  3. David H.

    It feels like the AAdvantage program has gotten much worse when you actually want to redeem your miles. I’m just trying to get a flight from DFW to Halifax Nova Scotia at the milesaaver level. As far as I can see there are NONE available for a full 12 months. Ridiculous!

  4. Rosie

    What is going on with AA? Last week Tuesday they had several connections in their Economy MileSAAVER award from Toronto to Barbados and San Jose to Barbados, at anytime of the year. I have been looking since Thursday May 14th and there is nothing in Economy MileSAAver award or First MileSAAver, for the balance of the year.
    Is it that AA is trying to phase it out and force you to use more miles? If that is the case they should inform you on their website.

  5. Frustrated in nyc

    It isn’t just Europe. Today seats were released for April 13, 2016 bookings and I tried to book nonstop JFK-LAS or JFK-LAX and there were no mile saver awards available in either coach or business class.


      @Frustrated in nyc – Sorry to hear that. But give it a few days or week. They seem to sometimes wait a bit.

      For example, there are loads of seats open in first class from JFK-LAX for most of the month prior.

  6. Cam

    I am trying to book a 10/28/15 NYC to PEK and then 11/17/15 BKK to NYC open jaw using my mileage from the combined AA and UsAir merger. We have about 250K to use. Just started this week, but my problem is I must have a 4:00 pm flight leaving BKK to NYC as we are coming from TDX. I have never used mileage before. Any suggestions on how to get this ticket in business class on JAL or better yet CX? I am tempted to book coach, but I don’t know how it works with reward seats opening. I wonder what chance I have of the flights opening up business class seats for award travel. Thanks

  7. Adam

    I’m trying to find MileSAAver Business of First awards to Asia from SFO…specifically SFO-HKG…in October. Nothing. How does one find/book a the 50K miles one-way flights to Asia if you see it on but not


      @Adam – Just give them a call on the phone – those Cathay Pacific flights don’t display on There’s no fee for the booking over the phone for those Cathay Pacific flights.

  8. Tamara

    After much searching, I had been unable to find any MileSAAver Business to Brussels (or anywhere else in Europe) from DFW that didn’t fly BA transatlantic and stick us with big fees, and pickings were slim with most flights requiring 110-135k AAnytime Awards. [Researching the source of my frustration is how I came to find this site.] Last night I was finally able to book DFW-PHL-BRU one-way for 50k each (2 tickets) plus a whopping total of $11.20 for both of us. (1st class DFW-PHL, Business PHL-BRU). I decided to call AA to see if I could find a fewer-stopover route than what popped up on the website (DFW-PHL-LHR-BRU and $363 in fees since US Air transatlantic vs. the ubiquitous BA and their sky-high fees). The call paid off big time. The agent found a better route and told me (with much excitement) that I was the first to get this just-released award. It took quite a bit of holding while they manually input the info. The flight was not available 1/31, but was available 2/1 (actually better for us), and I think she said 2/1 was the start date for these newly-released awards. She even waived the booking fee b/c she saw how long I’d been searching for this flight was excited to be of help. Very nice lady! She thinks more Business class MileSAAvers to Europe may be released as the merger continues. Anyway, worth continued monitoring for those looking for these flights to Europe.


      @Tamara – That’s great to hear, especially that you got the change fee waived so close in to departure.

  9. akhtar chaudhry

    i have 50k rerservation from cdg to lax in august 2015 .flight is frim cdg to phl in business class but from phl. to lax is in economy i can get business class from phl. to lax.
    thank you


      @Akhtar – Keep an eye on it. You can change to a flight that does have business class for free up until 21 days before departure. If the flight that you’re on opens up just call to have it rebooked for free even if within 21 days. (it is a paid service) lets you set email alerts for when award space opens up on flights of your choice.


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